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Watford's mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, accused by Labour candidate Jagtar Singh Dhindsa of 'misleading' residents over Watford health campus plans
Watford’s elected mayor has been accused of "misleading" residents over the need to sacrifice allotment land to help rebuild Watford General Hospital, by a political opponent.
Jagtar Singh Dhindsa, a Labour candidate in the May Mayoral elections, said the master plan for the health campus showed most of the Farm Terrace Allotment land was being used for new homes.
Mayor Dorothy Thornhill flatly rejected the accusation and said the allotment land was needed to make the whole regeneration scheme work. She added Councillor Dhindsa’s comments indicated he did not understand the financial aspect of the project.
The row broke out as Watford Borough Council looks set to plough on with the health campus, which has promised around 700 home and new health facilities, while uncertainty hangs over the hopsital element.
West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Watford General Hospital, has said it may not finish its clinical strategy - the blue print for regenerating its sites - until mid 2015. Meanwhile the trust has run into financial troubles.
The Farm Terrace Allotments had originally been protected in the health campus plans, but in 2012 Watford Borough Council’s administration voted to include the land, saying it was necessary to make the scheme viable for developers.
This week, Councillor Dhindsa said: "Personally I feel she (the mayor) has misled the community in Watford by saying the allotments are going to be used for the development of the hospital. But when you look at the plans there is hardly any hospital being put on it.
"The dwellings have gone up from 400 to 700 and there is hardly any infrastructure. Say if there are 300 kids in those homes, then we will need another school. Also my doctors (in West Watford) had a note before Christmas saying it won’t take on any more patients. She should have been up front with the community from day one.
"Why aren’t Dorothy and Richard Harrington going to the coalition government for funding (for the hospital).
"She said she is cracking on with the health campus, I think she is cracking up with all the pressure."
In recent weeks, Mayor Thornhill said the council would be carrying on with the health campus project despite the uncertainty over the hospital redevelopment.
This week she said it was a matter of the health trust "catching up" with its side the project to regenerate the land behind Vicarage Road.
Responding to Councillor Dhindsa, she said: "That is absolutely not the case (that the community was misled). Without a viable scheme there is no way the hospital can go ahead. What this shows is that he (Councillor Dhindsa) does not understand the scheme. He does not understand the partnership, which does not surprise as me when he was in charge of the council they (the previous Labour administration) could not make the accounts work.
"The hospital has to play catch up. We are confident it will catch up and when it does there will be the flexibility for the provision they want. But the new jobs and homes it will create are also important."